Bonus Episode: Mad Men! Gretchen and Elizabeth Talk About Their Favorite Moments.

Bonus episode

All about Mad Men. I did it! I finally watched Mad Men. It was on my 19 for 2019 list, then rolled over onto my 20 f0r 2020 list, and again onto 21 for 2021—and I’ve crossed it off. It was 92 hours of TV, which made it hard to start—but once I started, I loved it and couldn’t watch it fast enough. In our discussion… We review the names of the characters. Elizabeth describes various ways that her work as a TV writer has overlapped with Mad Men, with Women’s Murder ClubThe Fix, and Fantasy Island. In New York City, I live near 783 Park Avenue, which is where Don and Megan lived. I went to look at the building, and no surprise, discovered that there’s no building at 783 Park Avenue. The closest building is 785 Park Avenue. 

Lightning round of a few favorite aspects:

  • the clothes
  • the specificity of time and the way the times change culture
  • Joan starting a business using her own names, Holloway Harris
  • having a character known for clever talk, like Roger Sterling

Deeper issues:

  • the power of personal beauty, and the dangers of beauty
  • the appearance of the Four Tendencies: Joan is an Upholder, Don is a Rebel, Betty is an Obliger, Lane Pryce is an Obliger
  • the smoking and drinking!
  • the way the revelation of Don’s fake identity turns out to be non-issue
  • how binge-watching changes the experience of a watching a TV show—Elizabeth mentioned her binge-watching of Transparent
  • why don’t TV shows reveal the episode titles on the screen?
  • despite the fact that a theme of the show is isolation, there are many striking examples of different characters truly knowing each other: Don-Peggy; Don-Betty (after their divorce); Peggy-Pete; Sally-Don; Roger-Joan; Glenn-Betty; Don-Anna; Don-Roger; Peggy-Stan.
  • the occasional elements of supernatural—I quote a passage from author Muriel Spark‘s essay “Pensee: The Supernatural”:

Some of my work can be described as gothic because it deals with the supernatural. I have often found that the supernatural is a good factor for intensifying the vision of a story. It gives an extra dimension. It also helps to increase the element of suspense by which the reader is induced to turn the pages.

  • how the changing times affect the characters very explicitly
  • Betty’s explosive temper

Elizabeth explains why the end of the finale is her very favorite moment of TV.  

One of Gretchen’s favorite scenes: when Pete’s wife Trudy brings lunch to the hotel room where the new agency is temporarily headquartered.

One of Elizabeth’s favorite scenes: when Peggy wants Don to thank her for giving him the idea for his award-winning ad, and he tells her, “That’s what the money is for!” (Around minute 1:45)

Listeners’ favorite scenes and observations:

  • Several listeners wrote to tell me about a terrific site, Tom+Lorenzo Mad Style
  • Betty shooting the neighbor’s pigeons after he threatens her children’s dog
  • The episode “The Suitcase“—my favorite moment in that brilliant episode is where Don puts his hand over Peggy’s. It’s a powerful, wordless moment of gratitude and connection. Watch the moment here:
  • where the riding lawn-mower cuts off the foot of the visiting executive
  • where Don and his family leave all their trash behind after a picnic
  • Don’s brilliant pitch for Carousel slide projector


We love TV! Now, what show should I add to my 22 for 2022 list? Send me your suggestions!




Like what you see? Explore more about this topic.

Subscribe to Gretchen’s newsletter.

Every Friday, Gretchen Rubin shares 5 things that are making her happier, asks readers and listeners questions, and includes exclusive updates and behind-the-scenes material.